Ohio University men's basketball coach Saul Phillips
Photo: Logan Riely

Meet the Freshmen: Rodney Culver

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Anyone that watched the Ohio men’s basketball team last year knows that they must get better on the defensive end of the floor.

Insert true freshman Rodney Culver.

Culver, a 6-foot-5-inch, 190-pound guard from Pickerington Central High School, spent his last year in Delray Beach, Florida playing for Elev8 Sports Institute, where he averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game.

Culver developed a reputation for being a defensive stopper early in his high school career where he had to play good defense to earn minutes. He got good on that end of the floor thanks to playing against high levels of competition.

“Going way back to my freshman year we were loaded with talent, Caris LeVert, who just got drafted by the Brooklyn Nets. Jae’Sean Tate that plays for Ohio State. We had loads of division one players so everyday in practice and open gyms, it was always high level of competition,” Culver said.

Phillips has already talked to Culver about his role for this year and made it clear that playing defense is how he is going to earn minutes for this season.

“I told Rodney from the get-go, he doesn’t have to score the ball once this year. Just shut people down and disrupt,” head coach Saul Phillips said.

Last year’s team averaged the most points per game (78.5) in the Mid-American Conference but was second to last in terms of points per game allowed. Offense will not be an issue; it’s the other end of the floor that is a question mark heading into the season. Last year, sophomore guard Jordan Dartis was the guy guarding the opposition’s best player. But Culver will take some of that pressure off of Dartis.

“It’s nice, man. Rodney has a 6’11 wingspan that can guard a lot of different people on the court. It’s a great feeling to have him on the court,” Dartis said.

Culver’s defense has already been on display at practice where he has made life difficult for the guy he’s going up against.

“When Rodney gets his hands outside of his body on a screen and roll, I’ve seen Jaaron [Simmons] four or five times go to make a pass he’s made everyday, he’s made since he’s been in this program, and he just can’t make it,” Phillips said.

Culver most likely will not start but he is going to come off the bench, maybe score a little but mainly disrupt and be a pest on the other teams best guard or forward. Like the team itself, there are high expectations for Culver.

Senior Antonio Campbell described Culver as “a freak of nature who can do it all.”

Culver has a very high ceiling and is going to have a role and make an impact this season. Ohio has an exhibition game on Nov. 5 against Rio Grande in the Convo. Tipoff is set for 2:00 p.m.